Overexpression of AtLOV1 in Switchgrass Alters Plant Architecture, Lignin Content, and Flowering Time
Background: Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is a prime candidate crop for biofuel feedstock production in the United States. As it is a self-incompatible polyploid perennial species, breeding elite and stable switchgrass cultivars with traditional breeding methods is very challenging. Translational genomics may contribute significantly to the genetic improvement of switchgrass, especially for the incorporation of elite traits that are absent in natural switchgrass populations. Methodology/Principal Findings: In this study, we constitutively expressed an Arabidopsis NAC transcriptional factor gene, LONG VEGETATIVE PHASE ONE (AtLOV1), in switchgrass. Overexpression of AtLOV1 in switchgrass caused the plants to have a smaller leaf angle by changing the morphology and organization of epidermal cells in the leaf collar region. Also, overexpression of AtLOV1 altered the lignin content and the monolignol composition of cell walls, and caused delayed flowering time. Global gene-expression analysis of the transgenic plants revealed an array of responding genes with predicted functions in plant development, cell wall biosynthesis, and flowering. Conclusions/Significance: To our knowledge, this is the first report of a single ectopically expressed transcription factor altering the leaf angle, cell wall composition, and flowering time of switchgrass, therefore demonstrating the potential advantage of translational genomics for the genetic improvement of this crop.